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Daughter in moving tribute at funeral of former boxing champ Paul Conlon

The daughter of former boxer Paul Conlon led his funeral service yesterday, describing him as an "extraordinary" man.

The west Belfast barber's body was recovered from the River Lagan last week. He had been missing since February.

Sasha Conlon (22) spoke movingly on behalf of her brother Stephen and their mother Annmarie Fenton.

More than 100 mourners heard how Mr Conlon had been a loving father and partner, successful boxer and skilled hairdresser.

Ms Conlon thanked those who had worked for nine weeks to find her father, including Lagan Search and Rescue, the Coastguard, the Red Cross and the PSNI.

"(They) have been immensely supportive to us through such a heart-wrenching, traumatic ordeal and have gone above and beyond the call of duty," she said.

"When we heard the news about our dad, our lives changed forever.

"Words can hardly describe the emotions that we felt and will continue to feel for a very long time.

"Much pain and loss has been felt by his death and many tears have been shed."

Describing him as a loving father who was "certainly an extraordinary person and unique in every sense", she said: "He was talented, vivacious and so handsome.

"He was multi-faceted and complex, the type of character you might read about in a book or watch in a play.

"There was never a dull moment with him."

His fearless personality and "electric presence" was reflected in the boxing ring, and he had always recalled with pride his Ulster senior boxing title of 1997.

Watching his fights, she said, had given her late grandfather Paddy a new lease of life. Ms Conlon also made a special mention of his boxing coach, close friend and mentor Harry Hawkins.

"A man who knew my dad better than most and who my dad loved and respected beyond measure," she said.

"Boxing was a passion of his, but hairdressing was my dad's craft.

"The best part of dad working as a hairdresser was that he met Annmarie, my mum.

"My mum always brought out the best in my dad and they shared a very happy life together, such a glamorous couple, especially when my brother Stephen was born in 1994.

"However, my dad was in for a great shock in 1996, especially with regards to the contents of his wallet, when I was born."

With both parents working hard to provide for their children growing up, Mr Conlon acted as their personal hairstylist and encouraged their university education.

"He was so proud to see us graduate last summer," his daughter said."When I was applying for university a few years ago, I was invited for interview at Cambridge.

"Because mum couldn't make the trip over with me, dad accompanied me instead.

"While other parents checked out the accommodation for students and other important aspects of university life, my dad went to try out all the bars.

"He was always very supportive as a parent, he just did it in his own way."

In recent times, she said her father's health had suffered, with various ordeals at hospitals giving the family "quite a few scares".

"He never wanted to trouble us with it, he never wanted to trouble anyone with anything."

She thanked some of his closest friends for helping to give Mr Conlon a dignified send-off.

Belfast Telegraph